May 22, 2018

Guest Column: Clinical trials in Vermont have benefited patients

By Michael O’Connor 


Without effective biopharmaceutical treatments, I’d be relying on caregiver support for my daily needs. And that’s why I, a Parkinson’s disease survivor, am such a staunch advocate for the clinical research biopharmaceutical companies have conducted, and continue to pursue, in Vermont.

According to a new report, “Research in Your Backyard: Pharmaceutical Clinical Trials in Vermont,” biopharmaceutical companies have conducted 566 trials of new medicines in the state since 1999, and more than half of them have targeted our most debilitating chronic diseases, including cancer, diabetes, heart disease and stroke. While I have found clinical trials and biomarker research nationally available, I am hopeful there will be Parkinson’s disease trials established in the backyards of Vermonters real soon!

Biopharmaceutical companies and their local research institution collaborators, including the University of Vermont Medical Center, are striving to develop effective new-generation medicines especially for those living with Parkinson’s disease. We understand the vital importance of that effort every day, for without clinical trials, there can be no development of new treatments or a chance to find a cure for all of us living with chronic illness.

It’s also important that 48 trials of new chronic disease medications are still active in the state and recruiting patients: clinical trials have the potential to improve or save people’s lives and better awareness can spur more participation. The active trials in Vermont include 20 for cancer, which the American Cancer Society says killed about 1,300 Vermonters in 2013, and 10 for heart disease, the leading disease cause of death in the country and second-leading disease killer in our state.

The “Research in Your Backyard” report offers a helpful step for patients and their doctors to get more information on each of the nearly 50 trials that are still recruiting. And I urge people to take that step to find out more about ongoing clinical research in Vermont. Visit

Not only is it possible that some patients might be effectively treated in a trial, receiving new hope when all seemed lost, but if they participate, they are also making an important contribution to developing a new medicine for many victims of a disease. These research opportunities are made possible by a good research infrastructure in the state, led by the University of Vermont and Fletcher Allen Health Care. Our state leaders are also supportive, including the current administration of Gov. Peter Shumlin.

In the end, we’ve all come together to create a sound research environment, one which has been beneficial to patients all over the world. I urge Vermonters to learn more about the clinical trials in our state and how they can benefit health and our economy.

Michael O’Connor is a Williston resident and the immediate past president of the Vermont chapter of the American Parkinson’s Disease Association.


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